Violence and Displacement in Civil War. Evidence from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)


This paper explores the relationship between violence and displacement during civil war focusing on two different forms of population movements (i.e. incoming and outgoing), and two different forms of violence (i.e. direct and indirect). The paper explores the relationship between displacement and violence at the local level in the context of a civil war fought conventionally using fine-grained data from 1,062 municipalities of the region of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War (1936- 1939). First, the paper suggests that exogenous and endogenous to the war factors combine to generate patterns of resettlement. Second, the evidence indicates that, in a civil war context, refugee flows and violence are interrelated in multiple ways: the arrival of internal refugees in a locality promotes the perpetration of direct violence against civilians; this, in turn, triggers the departure of people from the locality when the other group approaches. Third, indirect violence (i.e. bombings) shows to be the most significant factor accounting for external displacement at the local level, suggesting that bombing can serve as a strong signal for civilians of the type of armed group they are facing. Finally, the Spanish case suggests that the demographic changes provoked by displacement, combined with the lethality of the conflict, are likely to have long- term political consequences.